A Texas state appeals court ruled on Thursday that child welfare officials had no right to seize more than 400 children taken last month from the Yearning For Zion Ranch, a polygamous sect's compound in the state. The ruling however does not make clear what will happen to the children or the legal position of their parents.
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Now, the fight between Texas authorities and a polygamist sect over one of the biggest child custody cases in U.S. history. Jeffrey Brown has the story.
The case began in early April, when state authorities raided the Yearning for Zion ranch in west Texas, after a call was placed to a domestic abuse hotline.
More than 400 children were removed from a compound operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a group that split with the Mormon Church more than a century ago over the issue of polygamy.
Nearly a third of those taken were babies. A few dozen were teenage girls.
Child welfare authorities argued that members of the sect pushed underage girls into marriage and sex. Two weeks later, a state district judge agreed that the children were, in fact, at risk of sexual abuse if they were brought back to the compound.
Since then, the children have been placed in foster homes throughout Texas while a series of custody hearings were held.
Then, today a Texas appeals court ruled that authorities had overstepped their bounds and had not offered sufficient evidence to warrant the removal of the children.